On the afternoon of April 9 2017, I waved my bed and family goodbye as I set foot upon Australia’s national tall ship the STS Young Endeavour for the voyage of a lifetime. Barely a minute had passed when we were all handed a nametag that told us which of the three watches, red, white or blue we now belonged to. I was part of red watch. As we made our way around the ship I bumped into some other youth crew who turned out to be on my watch and from then on we were inseparable.
As the sun rose above the horizon for our first official morning onboard, we walked around the deck, had a quick chat from the staff crew, known as “Staffies” then it was time to head below deck for a delicious breakfast prepared by Chef Keely. We then met our watch leader Jimmy and sidekick Marcus, who were both from the navy. Marcus partook in everything we did whilst being assessed for his suitability in being a Staffie on the Young Endeavour for future voyages.
Following breakfast, we had a briefing with all staff and youth crew on the port side of the bridge, complete with daily appearances from Salty, Nav, Nanna and Captain Yak. It was then onto Happy Hour, the happiest hour of the day, which consisted of an hour of cleaning various working sections of the ship to ensure it was clean and tidy. We were always kept entertained by the resident DJs Adam and Salty blasting out our Happy Hour theme song, Pyramid - Wolf as well as some of their best dance moves on the bridge.
As the most competitive non-competitive part of the day, Rope Races became a scene of fun, laughter and friendly competition. For each round one member from each watch stepped up and had to be the first to find a certain rope or piece of the ship’s kit such as the man overboard marker or the Jib Sheet and call their watch in whilst we were all cheering for our watchmates. Failure to determine a winner meant it was down to a tiebreaker, which usually consisted of eating an item of food as fast as possible such as an apple, banana or packet of Sultana Bran to determine a winner.
The rest of our days mainly consisted of climbing the fore and main masts, learning important skills in sail setting, furling and tacking, rules of the road maritime-style and “hugging a tree”, where we regained our land legs temporarily as we went ashore at Port Stephens, Patonga, Broughton Island and Manly.
As Command Day came around we braced ourselves for what was to be our biggest challenge since stepping onboard some eight days ago. It would be where the youth crew took over sailing and running the ship for twenty-four hours whilst Captain Yak and his motley crew of Staffies took a backseat overwatch role.
As the elected Youth Captain, Command Day was a never-ending challenge, from sorting out the youth crew into new watches with new watch leaders, liaising with the Youth Navigators and Sailmaster as to when we were due to tack and what sails should be set and furled, to completing the endless amount of team challenges set by Captain Yak. There were many stressful, tired and triumphant hours and we managed to consolidate all the learning we had gained in the days prior to achieve and together we achieved our goal of sailing, and for a few hours drifting (with the EAC dude!) from Cowan Creek to Sydney Heads. We all worked together as an effective team and took away newfound understandings of our own strengths and weaknesses and an appreciation and respect of the endless challenges and hard-ships (pun intended) that are presented to a crew commanding a tall ship.
Whilst sitting up on deck on our last night, staring up to the stars with a beautiful backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge I could not begin to believe how far we had all come in such a short space of time. To go from a bunch of complete strangers to be becoming a part of the Young Endeavour family with each member of the crew is truly phenomenal, and the friendships forged through the rough nights at sea and the picturesque days will remain with me forever.
If I was to offer a word of advice for any young Australian out there contemplating a trip on the Young Endeavour, I would say absolutely give it a go, there is really nothing else quite like it. I am sure I could speak for all crew onboard Voyage 08/17, that the Royal Australian Navy crew were professional and provided us with a tremendous learning experience we will never forget.
“A calm sea never made a skilled sailor” Captain Matt, Young Endeavour Voyage 08/17.